THE CUCKOO’S CALL (Utagawa Kunisada)

N.1 ukiyo-e woodblock print
Year: 1848 ca.
Condition: good
Size: 25 x 37 cm



When I turned my look / toward the place where I had heard / the cuckoo’s call, / the only thing I found / was the moon of early dawn (ほととぎす 鳴きつる方を 眺むれば ただ有明の 月ぞのこれる). In this fine woodblock print by the artist Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞), the verses of the famous poet Tokudaiji Sanesada (徳大寺実定), also known by the pseudonym Gotokudaiji no Sadaijin (後徳大寺左大臣), accompany the depiction of this young woman dressed with a kimono (着物) decorated with shells and cuckoos, the birds that with their song announce the beginning of the Japanese summer.

The work, printed around 1848 by the publisher Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛) owner of Kikakudo (喜鶴堂), is taken from Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首), literally “one hundred people, one poem”, a series inspired by the homonymous collections of waka (和歌) poems consisting of one hundred poems written by one hundred different poets.

The print, despite the evident aging of the Japanese washi paper (和紙) and some small restorations on the back, is in good general condition.